Posts tagged with "Monuments":

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New Monuments for New Cities reimagines memorials for the current political moment

An upcoming traveling exhibition put on by Friends of the High Line will invite cities and local artists to imagine what monuments should look like in the 21st century. New Monuments for New Cities, the inaugural project of the High Line Network Joint Art Initiative, will feature 25 site-specific artworks set within five urban reuse projects across the United States and Canada. The public art showcase, running from February to October of next year, will take an important look at the role monuments have played in shaping cities and how they successfully speak to or, in some cases, misrepresent the people who live there. A diverse set of artists from each locale have been selected to submit proposals for the project in the form of posters. “As memorials to the deeply imbalanced history of the Western world are being torn down, the current moment demands critical thought and creativity about the monuments that adorn our cities,” said Chief Curator of High Line Art Cecilia Alemani in a statement. “These proposals from today’s artists offer an inspiring range of vision for how we might eternalize this point in society’s progress.” The posters or renderings will be projected for two to four months at a time within several major industrial reuse spaces in North America including the Buffalo Bayou in Houston, Texas; Waller Creek in Austin; The 606 in Chicago; and The Bentway in Toronto. The exhibition will finish its international tour on the High Line next fall, coinciding with the High Line Network’s annual meeting and its first public symposium.
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Getty Research Institute exhibition explores the meaning of monumentality

MONUMENTality, a forthcoming exhibition organized by the Getty Research Institute (GRI) that aims to consider how the meanings of monuments can change over time and why some monuments endure while others fall, is timely if nothing else. The exhibition is set to open on December 4 and comes amid widespread social upheaval that has questioned the legitimacy of long-standing monuments, historical figures, and works of art in contemporary culture. As long-venerated American heroes like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson see their legacies questioned, prominent entertainers and artists and their works face a reckoning in the #MeToo era, and historical monuments celebrating slavery and the American Confederacy fall across American cities, shockwaves have reverberated through society and the art world as a critical reappraisal takes place. The exhibition, which is curated by Frances Terpak, Maristella Casciato, and Katherine Rochester, seeks to take a more art history-focused approach as its curators analyze wide-reaching trends in monumental art, urban planning, architecture, land art, and other media in their search for answers to these contemporary questions. The wide-ranging exhibition investigates monumentality through several lenses and forms of being, including works generated through “systems of belief and structures of power” by showcasing historical rare books, political ephemera, photographs, and contemporary art from GRI’s collection that depict or have been inspired by monuments from antiquity to present day, according to a press release. The exhibition will feature works from many artists and designers, including: Dennis Adams, Annalisa Alloatti, Lane Barden, Mirella Bentivoglio, Joyce Cutler-Shaw, Tacita Dean, Theaster Gates, Leandro Katz, Michael Light, Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Edward Ranney, Ed Ruscha, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, and Lebbeus Woods, among others. Maristella Casciato, curator of architecture at the GRI said, “Monuments, though often meant to stand for eternity, can physically change over time—from erosion, looting, war, or iconoclasm—or they can stay intact but change in their meaning, losing context or relevance, or becoming integrated with daily life in new ways. And monuments can form organically, through the ways that people interact with the built environment.” Casciato added, “MONUMENTality investigates the ways that monuments are necessarily dynamic, ultimately reflecting, through their endurance or failure, the world around them.” The exhibition will be on view through April 21, 2019. For more information, see the exhibition website.
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Michael Graves Architecture completes the world’s tallest statue

Gujarat, India, now boasts the tallest statue in the world. The nearly 600-foot-tall Statue of Unity, completed on November 1, is a bronze duplicate of India’s first deputy prime minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. It was designed and master planned by Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA) and is intended to anchor what will eventually become a resort. The monument took eight years to design and four to build. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the time still the chief minister of Gujarat, first proposed the sculpture in 2010 and construction began in 2014. The statue proper, designed by Indian sculptor Ram V. Sutar, reaches nearly 50-stories tall and sits on a three-tiered base that boosts the height to its record-breaking status. The geometrically-sculpted base sits on its own riverine island and is connected to the mainland via a pedestrian and road bridge. Inside, guests are met with a visitor’s center, hotel, and an exhibition hall, all of which is topped with a memorial garden. Part of the challenge that MGA faced in designing an occupiable structure—a 500-foot-tall viewing platform in the chest is accessible through elevators that run through the statue—is the sculpture’s “walking pose.” The non-symmetrical pose posed a challenge in orienting the base, and MGA managed to hide the zig-zagging elevator system inside of the memorial’s flowing robes. Two structural concrete cores were used to anchor the Statue of Unity, which support the steel framework (cast from scrap sourced all over India) attached to the 2,000 tons of exterior bronze paneling. Vallabhai Patel was a central figure in the Indian independence struggle as well as the unification of India’s 567 British vassal states into one country. A rammed earth wall, constructed from dirt taken from every state in India, is used at the State of Unity’s base as a background for the national flag. The $460 million statue won’t be the world’s tallest for long, as similar megaprojects are already in the pipeline. The Spring Temple Buddha in China, knocked down to second place, is planning to add its own podium and boost its height from 500 feet to 682 feet tall, and a 695-foot-tall statue of the Indian warrior-king Chhatrapati Shivaji is slated to open off of the coast of Mumbai in 2020.
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The Museum of Trans Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) queers monument design

A show now up at New York City’s New Museum has invited a collection of artists to probe the fluid nature of transgender history (or hirstory, a portmanteau using the gender-neutral pronoun “hir”), and the role of monuments in America today. Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project, organized by artist Chris E. Vargas and the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA), challenges how public monuments, even LGBTQ-oriented ones, can exclude or diminish the contributions of not only trans people, but of large and complex communities more generally. Rather than putting forward one design for a trans-oriented Stonewall memorial, the show invited a range of artists to propose monuments that would grow and evolve over time. This amorphous approach is a reaction to the concretization of transgender history as trans communities become more widely accepted in the U.S. In June of 2016, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn in New York City a National Monument, the first to specifically highlight the LGBTQ community. The Inn was the site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, when a group of patrons at the bar fought back against a police raid on the establishment and demanded to be treated with respect. The riots are frequently cited as the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement in the U.S. An existing memorial of the riots, the Gay Liberation Monument, sits in the park opposite the inn, but it, along with other public remembrances of the riots, have been accused of remembering only the roles of white, cisgender people in the LGBTQ rights movement and forgetting the role that trans women of color had in leading the riots. This perceived history of exclusion is part of what spurred Vargas to solicit a kaleidoscopic range of ideas. “Constructing one single monument is an inadequate way to represent this history,” Vargas said. “There are so many queer subjectivities that have a stake in this.” In the New Museum show, 13 different artists have contributed their ideas for a Stonewall monument, all of which are represented in a site model of Christopher Park in the center of the gallery. The proposals at the New Museum are all a far cry from the politely-posed statues of the Gay Liberation Monument. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt designed gleaming rodents to remember the riots, “that night the ‘gutter rats’ shone like the brightest gold.” Nicki Green put forth a pile of bricks, both a humble building material and the weapon thrown by Stonewall rioters at the police. Jibz Cameron imagined various scenes: dancing feet, the Stonewall’s notoriously dysfunctional toilet, and a “stiletto heel being slammed into the eye of a cop.” Chris Bogia opted for an abstracted facade filled with color and dangling with pearls, saying: "I want to make something that reminds every passerby that there was a riot in this place for LOVE and that it was full of color, and that we won." Vargas started MOTHA in 2013 as trans celebrities, like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Caitlyn Jenner started to rise to national prominence. While a new era of trans visibility appeared to be dawning, Vargas noted that not everybody was getting included in the uplift: “It didn’t universally make things better in the trans community.” The visibility also began to harden some definitions, taking a range of identities, some of which had been purposefully vague, and standardizing them for a mass audience. MOTHA was a riposte to the notion that there could be any stable definition of what it meant to be trans and that certain trans people were more worthy of visibility than others. The conceptual museum was intentionally tongue-in-cheek, as much of a lampooning of the self-seriousness and strictures of genteel art institutions as a celebration of the diversity and range of queer culture. The campy institutional critique falls in the vein of the Guerrilla Girls, the feminist activist artists who for decades have used surreal imagery and savvy design to point out the discrepancies between how art institutions treat men and women. MOTHA's mission statement drives its campy sensibilities home:
The Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) is dedicated to moving the hirstory and art of transgender people to the center of public life. The Museum insists on an expansive and unstable definition of transgender, one that is able to encompass all transgender and gender-nonconforming art and artists. MOTHA is committed to developing a robust exhibition and programming schedule that will enrich the transgender mythos by exhibiting works by living artists and honoring the hiroes and transcestors who have come before. Despite being forever under construction, MOTHA is already the preeminent institution of its kind.
The artists participating in The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project take MOTHA’s subversive wit into the contemporary political climate, one in which trans communities are again both under attack and fighting back. President Trump recently announced that he is considering reversing rules protecting the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender, while at the same time a historic amount of LGBTQ candidates are running for office and are poised to hold greater political power. Trans entertainers and performers are achieving recognition even as transgender people in the U.S. are being killed in record numbers. “There were always limitations in accepting and inclusion," Vargas said. “This political moment has highlighted the limitations.” Monuments have become a particular flashpoint in the U.S.'s fraught political climate, and Vargas says that he began the Stonewall project questioning the role of monuments. "I went into it with a real critical lens, but to be honest, I’ve become more understanding of the importance they play…There’s a way they can evolve over time." Vargas cited the influence of the work of the artist Isa Genzken, whose Ground Zero sculpture series imagined for the World Trade Center site in New York City a series of kaleidoscopic churches and discos instead of drab office towers. Like Genzken's sculptures, the Stonewall proposals embrace messy emotionality and exuberant vitality over orderly construction. The carnivalesque approach reflects the overall strategy for MOTHA, a roving institution that Vargas says will never have a permanent physical home. “At the heart of my approach to this project is an acknowledgment that once you start you canonizing, once you start making an official history, you have to start policing boundaries of what is or isn't considered transgender, and I don't think the identity category lends itself to that approach." Vargas added, "I don’t think it makes sense to have a traditional institution…It makes sense to have it exist as an evolving parasitic entity.” Which is not to say that Vargas wouldn’t want architects to imagine what a home for MOTHA could look like. “It’s been a dream of mine to have an architectural design competition for the institution,” Vargas said. Architects, take note.  Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project will be on view at the New Museum in New York City through February 3, 2019.
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The New Museum’s 2018 Triennial tackles entrenched urban power

At the New Museum’s fourth triennial launched earlier last week in Manhattan, Songs for Sabotage, emerging artists were given a chance to address the entrenched power structures found in cities and our social superstructures. Thirty artists from nineteen countries put forth calls for public action and political engagement, across every medium. Attempting to reconcile art and politics is never a pretty process, and Songs for Sabotage puts that disparity front and center. The public views images of ruling class-based propaganda on a daily basis, whether they’re posters, movies, or public sculptures; the artists of Songs for Sabotage have presented their vision of an internationalist counter-narrative, using the same forms of media. The broad prompt has resulted in a show with art in a wide variety of styles and media on display. Daniela Ortiz has waded into the debate over polarizing historical monuments with replacement proposals for controversial statues, using ceramic sculptures that emphasize the place of native peoples in America’s history. Columbus (Colón) shows a beheaded version of the Christopher Columbus statue in Columbus Circle, while her other proposals depict oppressed peoples rising above their historical colonizers. Reinterpreting and tweaking the familiar sights of city dwellers is a common scene in Songs for Sabotage. Zhenya Machneva has woven industrial scenes and workshops into massive tapestries, softening these dangerous or harsh built places. Hong Kong-based artist Wong Ping has contributed Wong Ping’s Fables, a series of three videos where bipedal animals and living emoji reenact trivial day-to-day tasks, appended with a nonsensical moral, with each story drawing attention to the difficulties faced by the poor and powerless. The digital and sculptural works are only small pieces of a massive three-floor show, and every work takes the adage that "the medium is the message" to heart. Painting, industrial design, mixed-media pieces and architectural metalworks are abundant throughout, as are commentaries on colonialism and continued narratives of oppression perpetuated through mass media. Songs for Sabotage was curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari, New Museum's Kraus Family Curator, and Alex Gartenfeld, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, with Francesca Altamura, Curatorial Assistant. The show will run from February 13, 2018, through May 27, 2018.
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NYC monuments commission decides to move one statue and contextualize Columbus

Following months of public comments, New York City’s Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, formed last September by mayor Bill de Blasio, has finished its review. The commission was created as response to the rising fervor around removing contested monuments around the country, as local activists pointed out that New York has its fair share of statues that celebrate problematic historical figures. The most contentious of the monuments under review was the Christopher Columbus statue that anchors the Columbus Circle roundabout on the southwestern corner of Central Park. New York’s Italian-American community slammed the possibility of removing the statue when the commission was first announced, while others decried celebrating a figure whose actions directly led to the killing of native peoples and the seizing of their land. Instead of removing the iconic statue, de Blasio has announced that plaques will go up explaining historical context, as well as the creation of a monument celebrating the achievements of indigenous peoples near Columbus Circle. Citing the “layered legacies” of each of the items under review, the commission’s report recommended a number of changes for several other highly public monuments, which the mayor has already signed off on. The statue of Theodore Roosevelt on horseback in front of the Museum of Natural History, recently doused in red paint by activists, will stay put. Instead, the museum will be offering educational programs on both Roosevelt’s history of conservation as well as his views of colonialism. Additional markers will be installed around the statue to the same effect. The J. Marion Sims statue at 5th Avenue and 103rd Street bordering Central Park was also under deliberation. Known as the “the father of modern gynecology,” Sims’ legacy has come under fire for his well-known experimentation on unanesthetized slaves. Citing the lack of contextual relevance for the statue’s current site the commission voted to relocate it to Green-Wood cemetery, where Sims is buried. While the original pedestal will remain in place in East Harlem, a plaque will be installed that discusses the issues Sims’ legacy raises. Finally, a marker for Marshal Philippe Pétain has been left in place on Lower Broadway’s “Canyon of Heroes”, which denoted a stretch from the Battery to City Hall where ticker-tape parades are typically held. The marker was installed in 2004, when the Downtown Alliance installed a series of 206 granite markers along the avenue, each representing a ticker-tape parade that had been held on Broadway. The Frenchman had been hailed as hero after returning from WWI and honored with a parade in New York, but later became a top figure in the collaborative Vichy government during WWII. In light of his eventual conviction for treason, the commission recommended installing signage that would re-contextualize the markers, as well as stripping the “Canyon of Heroes” name from Lower Broadway. The committee’s full report is the culmination of months of public hearings and thousands of public comments.
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Minnesota city reneges on Satanic monument in public park

After some back-and-forth, a Minnesota city has revoked permission for a monument to Satan in a public park. Belle Plaine officials nixed a permit for the monument, which was slated for a dedicated free speech zone in the city's Veterans Memorial Park. Officials sanctioned the area for free expression after residents complained about a statue of a kneeling soldier and a cross, a symbol some said violated the separation of church and state. In response, the Salem, Massachusetts–based Satanic Temple commissioned Albuquerque artist Chris Andres to design the memorial, which features an upside-down helmet atop a black cube etched with pentagrams. The piece is supposed to honor veterans who do not identify with any religion. The city approved the design, and agreed to help with installation. The sculpture, which was custom-designed to comply with city rules, would have been the nation's first Satanic monument on public property. The StarTribune reported the Satanists are seeking $35,000 in damages to cover the commission it paid to Andres for his work. Satanic Temple attorney Martin Flax claimed that Belle Plaine breached a contract and infringed on the temple's First Amendment rights. The city's counsel disputes this interpretation. After a series of protests and counter-protests, the monument wasn't allowed to go up at all, and the cross on the still-standing veteran's memorial has been removed. “We’re going to have a very difficult time finding another use for this,” temple co-founder Doug Mesner told the StarTribune. “It’s all at our loss.”
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The town hall as democratic monument: a manifesto

What town halls are—their names, their forms, their programs—and the way they relate to the public and the city have changed dramatically over the centuries. Each new incarnation evolves from the last, building up a rich legacy full of successes and lessons that can be brought forward into future manifestations.

In Britain, the 1800s were an era of dramatic change, tumultuous growth, vigor, and pride for British cities, all anchored and guided by the Victorian Town Hall. The typology’s eloquent facades spoke of civic pride, communal purpose, economic strength, and artistic verve. Their interiors contained multipurpose halls, whose size and opulence made Buckingham Palace seem twee and quaint.

After World War II, in a national equivalent of the pioneering reforms of the great liberal mayors of the 19th century, gone were the vast republican Roman temples competing with the beautiful behemoths of British neo-baroque, the people-palaces of competing virtual city-states. In their place came modernity and a corresponding universal design language that spoke of a shared future and universal values.

As globalization, deregulation, and the European dreams reached their respective zeniths in the 2000s under New Labour (with a similar zeitgeist in the United States), architecture once again took on a starring role in the perpetual transformation of our cities. Private capital mingled with state funding to deliver colorful new spaces that mixed consumption and education, profit and provision, in an apotheosis of a historical compromise between society and the market.

We are living through what is perceived to be one of our democracy’s most intense crises in generations, which means it is in fact the perfect moment to build monuments to its rebirth. In crisis lies the greatest opportunity for reinvention. In each island of progress may there rise democratic monuments of symbolic sustenance and practical pageantry, for our sprawling cities, for our expanding towns, for the many and for the few; beauty, but for everyone.

It is time for the town hall as a democratic monument: architectural plurality in compositional unity. Architecture can be eloquent, and in using color and richly saturated materials, we can create buildings that embody us, our collective dreams, and our sense of communal identity. A democratic monument’s public face is proposed to be a large civic facade, designed in a contemporary manner, but echoing older structures—such as our Gothic Cathedrals—in its forthright form and ornamental exuberance. Encrusted in richly colored and patterned tiles, manufactured using the latest digital ceramic technologies, and designed by local artists, it presents a proud, joyfully new beacon of confidence to its city.

The next incarnation of the town hall is to be a monumental embodiment of our evolving liberal democracy as it moves into another new phase of energetic activity and robust invention. One in which architectural language and expression can both embody and reconcile the perpetual tensions between market and state, and minority and majority. One in which a fragmenting society and a diffuse urban realm are given new symbolic anchors that neither ignore the deep veins of difference, nor impose an arbitrary uniformity, but celebrate the constant tensions, debates, and engagement that keep any one aspect of society from eclipsing the others.

Council leaders and mayors will time-share the same halls of state with LGBT groups, unions, trade bodies, music festivals, and faith events, all within interiors that make the shopping centers of a generation before seem dull and meaningless.

Civic interiors in which durable, permanent, chromatically vivid decoration will be brought back into public architecture. The bright nothingness of white paint and aluminum panels will no longer be the default non-color, but rather all the hues we love so much in nature and art will be deployed to once again fill our city halls and collective interiors. Digital decal ceramic printing of large decorative schemes will fill entire volumes in combination with varied translucent glazes, will create rooms that glitter and glow. 

The glazed tiles will reflect the changing weather outside and the activities inside, suffusing the internal atmosphere with a strong and distinct sense of place, a potent color-filled “somewhere,” rather than a white “anywhere.” Expensive marbles will be placed next to pink and baby blue terrazzo, as well as next to cheap, but robust, laminates in lemon yellow and orange, green plastics and lavender powder-coated steel, while glazed tiles will meet ochre travertine and puce anodized aluminum.

It is vision of public space that uplifts and embraces through ornament, materials, and color.

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NYC announces commission to review public monuments

Today Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed the members of a hotly-anticipated commission to review the city's public monuments for "symbols of hate" amid a national climate of elevated bigotry and ascendent white nationalism. The commission, officially dubbed the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments and Markers, will have three months to develop new guidelines for how the city addresses monuments perceived as "oppressive" and "inconsistent" with the city's values. These values are not strictly codified, but the Mayor's speechifying on monuments issue over the past month suggests they align with liberal ideals of tolerance, fairness, and equity. The 18-person commission is co-chaired by Tom Finkelpearl, the commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation. Its members include experts in law, public art, diversity, and preservation, and LGBT issues, as well as two architects: Mabel O. Wilson, a scholar of race and memory and an associate professor of architecture at Columbia GSAPP, and Michael Arad, the designer of the World Trade Center Memorial. Four city agencies—including the Public Design Commission, which reviews and approves public art—are ex officio members of the commission. Additional members may be announced before the first meeting. In addition to providing general recommendations on city-owned statues, it will review a few hot-button monuments, most likely starting with the J. Marion Sims statue in Harlem near Central Park and Christopher Columbus at Columbus Circle. Both works have drawn strong condemnation from anti-racist protestors in recent weeks. “I'm confident that this process will produce a conversation capable of examining our public art through the accurate, contextual historical lens that it deserves," said Mayor de Blasio, in a prepared statement. As the Mayor found out personally a few weeks ago, this is not an easy task. When he announced the commission, de Blasio, who has Italian heritage, said he was not necessarily opposed to removing Columbus. This statement provoked the ire of some Italian-Americans New Yorkers who view Columbus as a national hero. In light of the hot political climate (it's an election year, after all), the commission is moving fast to issue recommendations for the city's public works, as well as draft policies the city could advance to live up to its values. The group will put out its findings by the end of the year, but before then, the public can weigh in on the controversial monuments through DCA's website (link forthcoming). Across the country, cities are re-evaluating their approach to public commemoration. In the dead of night last month, Baltimore and New Orleans removed their Confederate statues in light of the Charlottesville, Virginia white supremacist rally to save that city's Confederate monuments. That day, a rally participant drove his car through a group of counter-protestors, injuring 19 and killing one.
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What Baltimore can teach us about the future of public monuments

With little fanfare, under the cover of night, the City of Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments last week. The removals may be read as a response to the violence in Charlottesville, but the city's decision marks a decisive new chapter in public commemoration, one that goes much deeper than the nightly news.  The monuments depicted Confederate soldiers, generals, (white) women of the South, and one Supreme Court justice best known for his role in the Dred Scott decision. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903) and the Confederate Women's Monument (1917) were both put up by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, while the Lee-Jackson Monument was erected in 1948 by the Baltimore Municipal Arts Society with $100,000 from a 1928 bequest by local business executive J. Harry Ferguson. The statue of Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney was given to Baltimore in 1887 by William T. Walters, who commissioned a copy of an 1871 statue of Taney on the Maryland State House grounds. Since last Wednesday, all four bronze monuments have been sitting in an city storage yard under cover of blue plastic tarps. For the past week, curious neighbors, activists, and news crews have toured the four empty stone plinths full of questions about the past and the future. How did these monuments end up here? How did the monuments affect Baltimore while they stood, and what do we do now that they're gone? It might seem odd to see Confederate monuments in Baltimore when Maryland remained part of the Union throughout the Civil War. Thousands of Marylanders fought for the Confederacy but thousands more fought for the Union, including over 8,700 black men in six Maryland regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. But slavery was still legal in Maryland until nearly the end of the war, when the state passed a new constitution in 1864. Former Confederates and their allies quickly returned to political power. Maryland did not ratify the 14th Amendment and 15th Amendment to the Constitution (what one historian called his "favorite Civil War era monuments") until well after they came into effect: 1959 (for the 14th) and 1973 (for the 15th). Across the country, efforts to remember the Civil War first appeared in cemeteries. Between 1865 and 1885, 90 percent of Confederate monuments contained some form of funerary design and a majority (70 percent) stood in cemeteries. (Confederate monuments still stand in southwest Baltimore's Loudon Park Cemetery. That all changed after the end of Reconstruction. When the federal government retreated from protecting black voters from the growing threat of violence by white neighbors in the 1870s, most monuments were stripped of their funereal designs and semi-public settings and moved decisively into the town square. Between 1885 and 1899, only 40 percent of new monuments used funerary designs, and towns increasingly chose to locate monuments in public places (like streets and courthouse lawns). From 1900 to 1912, the nation witnessed the erection of 60 percent of all Confederate monuments built before World War I. Of those, only 25 percent used funerary design and 85 percent were located in public areas. This dramatic move—from private sites of mourning to public sites of celebration and honor—reflects the success of a ''reconciliationist'' memory of the Civil War that focused on the bravery of soldiers and generals while avoiding any discussion of slavery or the unfinished work of emancipation. In the last chapter of Black Reconstruction in America, W.E.B. Du Bois noted the role historians at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore had played in rewriting the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction around themes of "endless sympathy with the white south" and "ridicule, contempt or silence for the Negro." In his landmark 2001 book, Race and Reunion, historian David Blight observed that "[a] segregated society, demanded a segregated historical memory."  The white supremacist politics that accompanied the rise of "Lost Cause" memory make it impossible to avoid comparing monuments to other strategies designed to exclude African Americans from urban space. During the same period white Baltimoreans put up Confederate monuments, the city enacted the nation's first racial segregation ordinance in 1910 and, in the wake of the ordinance's legal defeat, white residents created a patchwork of racially restrictive housing covenants. The Confederate Women's Monument was located in Bishop's Square Park near the southern entrance to Guilford, an exclusive suburban enclave established in 1913 and developed by a company that pioneered the use of racially restrictive covenants. It is important to remember, however, that the context for Baltimore's Confederate monuments (and the new empty plinths) is more than just the social history of racism and the "Lost Cause." Whether they stand in a private cemetery or on a public street, the meanings of monuments are shaped by the surrounding physical context. All of Baltimore's monuments have seen radical changes over the decades including the physical relocation, the demolition of surrounding buildings, and the reconfiguration of street grids. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument once sat in the center of Mount Royal Avenue, flanked on both sides by Victorian rowhouses, until the rowhouses were cleared away and the road dramatically widened for the construction of I-83. In 1959, construction of ramps for I-83 forced the Union Soldiers and Sailors Monument to move to the southeastern corner of Wyman Park Dell. The new site may even have been selected to provide "balance" to the Lee-Jackson Monument located on opposite side of the park. The map below depicts the present-day location of two of the four monuments in Baltimore: The way people use the urban landscapes surrounding the monuments has also evolved. When Baltimore's Confederate monuments were built, the people who sought permission for their installation, raised money for their design and production, and planned the dedication ceremonies often lived nearby. They wanted their neighbors to see the structures—whether their neighbors wanted to see them or not. In 1887, the statue of infamous Chief Justice Roger B. Taney was just a few hundred feet from the home of the statue's donor, William T. Walters at 5 West Mount Vernon Place—one of the the dozens of large townhouses facing on the four squares that surround the Washington Monument. But, by 1890, the neighbors also included over 11,000 African Americans living in the city's 11th Ward, which began just one block west of the park. Around the turn of the century, hundreds of Confederate veterans gathered around Mount Vernon Place to march up to Mount Royal Avenue for the dedication of the Confederate Soldiers Monument. Residents on or near the route included the former home of Confederate General Lawrason Riggs (where his widow flew a Confederate flag from the window as the parade went past) and Confederate officer McHenry Howard who spoke at the ceremony. But less than 100 years later, the center of Confederate memory had moved to the suburbs. The Baltimore chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans was re-established there in 1981, and a city that once welcomed celebrations of Confederate memory slowly began to turn against it. Since the 1950s, Confederate groups had organized an annual celebration for Robert E. Lee's birthday at the Lee-Jackson Monument. Celebrating Lee's birthday on the third Monday in January took on a new meaning after the federal government adopted Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a national holiday in the 1980s. In 2008, Johns Hopkins refused to rent the group the meeting hall they had used for years. Four years later, members of the Homewood Quaker Meeting House, located just a five-minute walk from the statue, began organizing a silent vigil calling on the group to "Change the Date." In June 2015, protestors used the Lee-Jackson Monument as the backdrop for a press conference calling on then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to remove Baltimore's Confederate Monuments and the Taney statue. Community members gathered there again on Sunday, August 13, a day after activist Heather Heyer's death, for a rally and march in solidarity with Charlottesville. The speakers called on Mayor Catherine Pugh to take down the city's Confederate monuments. When activist group Baltimore BLOC called for direct action to take down the Lee-Jackson Monument (#DoItLikeDurham), the city responded quickly. A little over twelve hours later, all four monuments had been taken down. What monuments or statues best represent the city today is still to be determined, but these four monuments will surely be remembered long after they were taken down. As some Baltimore’s own Frederick Douglass remarked in 1884: "It is not well to forget the past. Memory was given to man for some wise purpose. The past is … the mirror in which we may discern the dim outlines of the future."
Eli Pousson is the director of preservation & outreach at Baltimore Heritage where his work includes the Explore Baltimore Heritage website and app, as well as ongoing research about Baltimore's civil rights heritage. Pousson wrote this piece as an individual and not on behalf of Baltimore Heritage.
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Designers, here’s your chance to shape public space in Charlottesville, Virginia

This past week, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from a downtown park. As multiple news sources reported, the rally's violence culminated in chilling brutality when protestor James Fields rammed his car through a crowd of counter-demonstrators on a nearby pedestrian mall, injuring 19 and killing one. It's beyond question that the far right gathered on Saturday to spread hate in a public space. It just so happens, too, that this latest domestic terrorist attack coincides with the city's in-motion plans to redesign two main public parks—including the one with the Lee statue—around justice and equity. Back in June, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop a master plan that enhances the connection between Justice Park and Emancipation Park, as well as the parks themselves. Located two blocks away from each other, the two parks, formerly named for Confederate General Stonewall Jackson and Lee,* respectively, were sites of this weekend's protests. Among other changes, the city would like to develop better gathering spaces in both parks and memorialize former slaves in Justice Park. To prepare a design, the document asks participating firms to get acquainted with MASS Design Group's Memorial to Peace and Justice, a project in Montgomery, Alabama to honor victims of lynching. The RFP grew out of a report released in August of last year by the Blue Ribbon Commission, a group city officials convened to address race and representation in the city's public spaces. With statues of Confederate generals and a slave auction block in parks, as well as the preserved Reconstruction-era Freedmen’s Bureau, the commission's final report "[acknowledged] that far too often Charlottesville’s public spaces and histories have ignored, silenced or suppressed African American history, as well as the legacy of white supremacy and the unimaginable harms done under that cause." The chosen designer is expected to engage with the community extensively. In Charlottesville, city officials imagine that public history for the 21st century may be illuminated with new art, placemaking initiatives, and wayfinding. Interested? The deadline is approaching fast: Submissions are due this Thursday, August 17. *The park's renaming is in process, pending a court decision later this month.
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Find every public art installation and monument in NYC with this interactive map

The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has launched an interactive database of the 1000+ monuments, public artworks, and temporary installations across the city's five boroughs. The NYC Public Art Map and Guide is searchable by ZIP Code and address, and provides photos and basic information about each monument. These range from the iconic and instantly recognizable (like the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street) to the otherwise overlooked (a plaque in City Hall Park near The Architect's Newspaper's Tribeca offices commemorates an oak tree given as a gift from Canada on Arbor Day 1967). While the map is densely populated in Manhattan—Central Park especially is peppered with monuments and sculptures—residents of the outer boroughs may not know they live a few blocks away from a public art piece. A tiny patch of land at the intersection of Bedford Avenue and Dean Street in Brooklyn, for example, holds a 30-foot-tall pedestal and statue of Ulysses S. Grant. McCarren Park in Brooklyn will be the site of a public art piece not yet listed on the map. The city recently announced that the McCarren Play Center, which includes the iconic pool opened by Fiorello La Guardia and Robert Moses in 1936, will receive two new murals. Documents released by the NYC Percent for Art Program show that the original schematics called for artwork at the location, but none was ever installed. The murals will be the work of artist Mary Temple. The map may be a useful tie-in for budding gamers playing Pokémon GO, the interactive mobile game that's currently taking the world by storm. The Pokémon GO "augmented reality" app uses real-life locations as its playing fields and points of interest often correspond with monuments and public artworks. Perhaps the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation is the latest group trying to ride the Pokémon GO wave?